Postscript to Steak & Potatoes:
Okay, okay, so maybe I’m being a tad cheeky with you. Let me try to do better. For my people, the sine qua non of every meal, ordinary or festal, is a salad of fresh greens, fresh fruit, and strong sweetened coffee. The reviving of our senses with salad and fruit after the principal gets us ready for dessert. Do not let anyone pass off your salad as your vegetable-side to your meat. My mother has tried this now and again since she moved to Jersey, and my Sicilian cousins claim it is the norm in [New] Italy with roasted meat, but no such thing was ever imagined in Brooklyn, let alone attempted. Likewise, fruit is not dessert. When you deserve dessert, don’t let anyone pass off fresh fruit as your dessert. Dessert is a product of art, not nature, artfully sweetened with sugar or honey or some other superfluously delectifying additive, served after fresh fruit and before or with coffee.
I always feel annoyed when one of my gentile guests brings a dessert made with fruit, such as a pie, and looks dismayed when I precede it with a course of fresh fruit, as though there were redundancy or competition in that. (The only more annoying thing is when I ask for a dessert, and they bring fruit salad.) What has fresh fruit to do with cooked fruit? They are as far different as virgin and mother. The excellences of chastity are not those of fecundity.
Sweet espresso sounds the final cadence for the appetite. Unsweetened coffee is a gentile barbarism (like dry champagne, casks of which, destined for export to the Brits, the French branded brut as fit for a beast). I suspect this American form of self-abnegation to be of Calvinist origin, since I always detect a note of moralism when one of my guests says ‘No’ to sugar for their coffee, as though they really want to say ‘No, of course not’. I have an old College buddy who told me [eyeing me adding sugar] that in his [Presbyterian] home growing up, adding sugar to coffee was looked upon as childish, a thing to be outgrown. [These same people thought it laughable that I mush my hard ice cream into soft serve. To this day I don’t get what’s ridiculous about that. It tastes a lot better that way, you know, especially if you spike it with some cognac or bourbon]